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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2013

Male clasping ability, female polymorphism and sexual conflict: fine-scale elytral morphology as a sexually antagonistic adaptation in female diving beetles

Green, Kristina Karlsson; Kovalev, Alexander; Svensson, Erik I.; Gorb, Stanislav N.


During sexual conflict, males and females are expected to evolve traits and behaviours with a sexually antagonistic function. Recently, sexually antagonistic coevolution was proposed to occur between male and female diving beetles (Dytiscidae). Male diving beetles possess numerous suction cups on their forelegs whereas females commonly have rough structures on their elytra. These rough structures have been suggested to obstruct adhesion from male suction cups during mating attempts. However, some diving beetle species are dimorphic, where one female morph has a rough elytra and the other has a smooth elytra. Here, we used biomechanics to study the adhesive performance of male suction cups on the female morphs in two diving beetle species: Dytiscus lapponicus and Graphoderus zonatus. We compared adhesion on the rough and the smooth female morphs to infer the function of the rough elytral modifications. We found that the adhesive force on the rough structures was much lower than on other surfaces. These findings support the suggestion of sexual conflict in diving beetles and a sexually antagonistic function of the rough female structures. In addition, males differed in their adhesive capacity on different female surfaces, indicating a male trade-off between adhering to smooth and rough female morphs.


adhesion; biomechanics; Dytiscidae; polymorphism; sexually antagonistic coevolution; sexually antagonistic trait

Published in

2013, Volume: 10, number: 86, article number: 20130409

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Evolutionary Biology

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